To keep my annual ritual of heading to the Chicago Scots Scottish Festival and Highland Games from becoming routine like the movie Groundhog Day, instead of my usual visit on a Saturday, I headed to Itasca Friday night for the fun.
There, I started the first official weekend of summer by wolfing down a Winston’s Toasted, a corned beef sandwich piled high on rye toast, with a piece of cheddar cheese and grilled onions – from the famed Irish restaurant and market in Tinley Park.
It was as tasty as the 2005 Chicago White Sox World Series win, which also was served with grilled onions, as anything at a ballpark should be.
Not far from the Winston’s booth was a table from Up Down Cigars from Chicago. Fittingly for the fest was Dragon’s Milk from Michigan’s New Holland Brewery and Asylum Cigars – a cigar that’s been aged in the same beer barrels that the brewery’s Dragon’s Milk beer has been aged. But not at the same time, of course.
I bought one to give a buddy, then walked off to the vendor area, where the Scottish Gourmet USA caught my eye, if not my wallet. Full from the sandwich, I merely admired the Single Highland Malt Whisky Fudge and the Haggis and Cracked Black Pepper potato chips being hawked by a man who looked a bit like one of the early Doctors of Who.
In keeping with a TV show theme, I next visited Tomas the Lapidary, who was busy working on a metallic piece of neckwear in a booth offering crowns and other jewelry fit for people who make Game of Thrones and other such sword and sorcery a lifestyle choice.
That’s to say, a big weekend for Tomas and his crew from Indiana will be the Pennsic War, a Society for Creative Anachronism gathering in Pennsylvania in late July.
The website for it states, the name for the battle “was created as a combination of ‘Punic Wars’ and ‘Pennsylvania’. The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and the Phoenician city of Carthage.”
I’ll take Ohio State and the points.
Making my way across a field made bog-like and sloppy by all the ridiculous rain we’ve been having, I spotted Highland Titles, which was selling plots of land ranging from one square foot to 1,000 square feet, starting at $47.99.
According to material for the deal, “When buying a one square foot plot, the consumer will receive: The title of Laird, Lord or Lady of Glencoe (Glencoe! like a rich suburbanite!); a legal title deed for your land ownership, on parchment; a master title deed to change your title on bank accounts, driving license and other ID; a map of Glencoe Wood and directions/instructions on how to visit/find your personal plot; information and pictures of the area and related conservation project; and a bumper sticker.
I hope they know what they are getting into by allowing American suburban types to buy land. Next thing you know they’ll form a homeowner’s association and will have rules and regulations for how high you can grow your thistles.
My title would more fittingly be Lard, so I took a polite pass and headed over to view a bit of a demonstration of the games, with big guys and dolls tossing bags of hay with a pitchfork, and then competing in tossing a farm weight over a bar. In kilts, but not the breeze-seeking traditional way of wearing them.
While waiting on his turn, one of the athletes was talking about killing a big, obstinate snake one afternoon in his home’s back yard. Maybe this is how St. Patrick rid Ireland of the creatures – with the help of burly Scots.
I caught a bit of Scottish fiddle champion Tim MacDonald whom I swore said he was going to perform a baroque air about Johnny Kerr and how he overcame being teased and bullied. I don’t think he meant the former Chicago Bulls coach and announcer – but that would have been awesome.
Sadly, Friday’s offerings didn’t include the whisky-tasting area found on Saturday fest sessions – nor did it offer as many folks walking about in their kilts.
I left mine at home, too. You have to be in the mood to wear a kilt. You gotta feel it.
My friend Marty Duffy emceed the main entertainment stage, as he has for years, resplendent in a tartan and a sweater adorned with a pin that his brother Tim teased was a yak.
Crowned that night – young and sweet, only seventeen, was the Heather Queen. Yeah, that Abba song got stuck in my head, much like a caraway seed had in my teeth.
The night ended with the Celtic folk rock of Skerryvore, a 10-year-old band from the Isle of Tiree – which is not to be confused with former New York Giants football hero David Tyree, or the environmental firm Tyree, or slain L.A. musician Tyree Rowe or Chicago/Berlin dj and rapper Tyree Cooper. Thank you, Google, for all that.
Nay, Skerryvore has a pleasant, hummable sound, which reminded me that my summer typically starts to wind down with the Milwaukee Irish Fest in August.
I burped back the flavor of my Winston’s Scottish Egg Roll, which reminded I was heading to a food truck festival in Schaumburg Saturday and to the Illinois Railway Museum Sunday.
I’m getting tired, so I will keep the rest of this weekend recap short.
The highlight from the trucks was a pork belly bao, a steamed Chinese bun with slaw, Sriracha mayo and cilantro from Piko Street Kitchen. Pork Belly is my rap dj name.
As for train-ing day, it was Father’s Day, so dad’s got in free. That reminded me: I took my late dad and mom to the railway museum at least once.
A good amount of the equipment on display or running reminded them of their own youth and early adulthood, Chicago nostalgia tucked away in Union, Illinois in McHenry County – the wicker seats, the ads for Riverview, the lack of air conditioning.
For me, though, the Sunday visit inspired an idea for making money – a Christmas dinosaur tank engine express that in summers doubles as a water ride.
Kids love all the above, right? Whatever works.
It will be something to think about if and when I next lounge on something inflatable in somebody’s pool. You’ve been warned.